Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wild Incorrectives



"These skirmishes over syllabuses were part of a broader political programme – and they became instrumental to forging a new alliance for conservative politics in America, between white working-class voters and small business owners, and politicians with corporate agendas that held very little benefit for those people. 
"By making fun of professors who spoke in language that most people considered incomprehensible (“The Lesbian Phallus”), wealthy Ivy League graduates could pose as anti-elite. By mocking courses on writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, they made a racial appeal to white people who felt as if they were losing their country. As the 1990s wore on, because multiculturalism was associated with globalisation – the force that was taking away so many jobs traditionally held by white working-class people – attacking it allowed conservatives to displace responsibility for the hardship that many of their constituents were facing. It was not the slashing of social services, lowered taxes, union busting or outsourcing that was the cause of their problems. It was those foreign “others”. 
"PC was a useful invention for the Republican right because it helped the movement to drive a wedge between working-class people and the Democrats who claimed to speak for them. “Political correctness” became a term used to drum into the public imagination the idea that there was a deep divide between the “ordinary people” and the “liberal elite”, who sought to control the speech and thoughts of regular folk. Opposition to political correctness also became a way to rebrand racism in ways that were politically acceptable in the post-civil-rights era. 
"Soon, Republican politicians were echoing on the national stage the message that had been product-tested in the academy. In May 1991, President George HW Bush gave a commencement speech at the University of Michigan. In it, he identified political correctness as a major danger to America. “Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States,” Bush said. “The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land,” but, he warned, “In their own Orwellian way, crusades that demand correct behaviour crush diversity in the name of diversity.” 
"...But in the final years of the Obama presidency, political correctness made a comeback. Or rather, anti-political-correctness did 
"...These pieces committed many of the same fallacies that their predecessors from the 1990s had. They cherry-picked anecdotes and caricatured the subjects of their criticism. They complained that other people were creating and enforcing speech codes, while at the same time attempting to enforce their own speech codes. Their writers designated themselves the arbiters of what conversations or political demands deserved to be taken seriously, and which did not. They contradicted themselves in the same way: their authors continually complained, in highly visible publications, that they were being silenced." 
- Moira Weigel, Political Correctness, How the Right Invented a Phantom Enemy, The Guardian

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